Help me to Slack ...
May 22, 2019 4:39 AM   Subscribe

I've started getting a few invites to Slack channels, based around professional interests, but not necessarily company specific. I can definitely see the upsides here. But, the etiquette is unknown to me, and particularly, I was wondering: Is it okay to join channels and just be quiet a lot, or should I be upping my communication game a bit here, and taking advantage of what Slack-based interaction could offer?

Should I be introducing myself a lot? I can be (unreasonably?) wary of self-promotion online. Noob questions I know so any feedback greatly appreciated, feel free to ask for clarification as well. Thank you!
posted by carter to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Not a big slack user but generally online it's best to listen for a while to have an idea of what's topical for a given community. Most good groups are pretty topical, so getting a sense of what level of jargon to fit into the flow. Look for a faq or local rules.
posted by sammyo at 5:03 AM on May 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Different slack communities have different cultures and expectations!
- it's common for there to be a specific channel where new folks can introduce themselves
- some places actively prefer for new people to introduce themselves
- it's common for there to be some kind of specific rules around commercial promotional activity (e.g. maybe it's fine in specific channels, or maybe it's not fine at all)
- it's usually normal for there to be a lot of lurkers
- it's normal to interact a lot by posting emojis on things other people say, as well as or instead of writing anything yourself
- it's always a good idea to read any code of conduct first and to hang around and "read the room" a little bit before chiming in
- there may well be a bunch of "unwritten rules" that have built up over time, and that help everyone get along together in the space. Those rules might seem unusual to you, and you might accidentally get on the wrong side of them. If this happens, someone will probably let you know and you can just say "ok thanks for telling me" and carry on like NBD; this is usually a normal everyday thing and not some kind of weird high drama.
- such communities can be great to actively participate in and I recommend giving it a go!
posted by quacks like a duck at 5:08 AM on May 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with everything said above. One time in which I believe it IS rude to be quiet is if it is a channel where people share very personal details, like stories about their families or mental health. In cases like that, the channels are really about discussion and building community, and it can be creepy knowing that there is someone there who is just a "spy." It's a case like Metafilter where the people know that what they are saying is sorta public but they expect the be protected by the community.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:47 AM on May 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Every slack I'm in, and in fact every channel in every slack I'm in, has a small core of people who talk a lot and a much larger pool of lurkers who occasionally speak up when something is relevant to their interests and experience.

I generally see people introducing themselves in an introduction channel if one exists, and maybe giving a brief introduction when they join another channel (I especially see this for location-based channels, where people will be like "Hi, I'm X, I'm moving to City in a month because Y"). But it's normal for lurkers to speak up without an introduction, and without apologizing for lurking or even saying "Hey I'm delurking for this." If you're there, and you have something to say, you can say it.

Because of the amount of interaction you can do with emoji, saying things like "Yeah, same" or "I agree" or "Heh" or "Wow" or "That sucks" is less common than it would have been on IRC or in an old-fashioned chatroom. Not totally forbidden. Just less common.

Most slacks also have local running jokes involving emoji — even professional slacks where people aren't running around posting memes and stuff. You'll pick up on them. You also won't be judged for not participating in them, so ignoring them if they bug you or seem baffling to you is fine.

Many slacks have the expectation that if you're going to post something long and complicated, or something that will generate a bunch of conversation on a very narrow topic, you do it in a thread. You can do this if you have a long story you want to tell, or a specific problem you need advice on that isn't likely to spark discussion of broader interest. So for instance, "Let's talk about this interesting thing that comes up when you're writing a resume" might stay in the open channel and generate a free-ranging conversation that drifts from topic to topic. "Hi, can anyone come critique my resume?" might go in a thread, since even if it generates just as many messages, they're less likely to be of general interest, and drift is less welcome.

Channels where people post less professional stuff can also use threads for putting sensitive content behind a content warning, or for putting spoilers behind a spoiler alert.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:50 AM on May 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hi! I would say there's definitely a night and day difference between a company's slack team and interest groups using it.

For the groups you describe, treat it like a mailing list, where you sign up and in, pop in and lurk to your heart's content. I've never been in a Slack team where people assumed participation automatically, and honestly, the less people post on a busy one, the better.

The challenge for you personally is to figure out what value it brings you and if it's worth revisiting and coming back to often enough to follow along. I'm in like 20-30 slack teams, only about a third of which are serious and work related or tight knit friend groups and the biggest problem for me is finding the energy to jump into the community slack teams often enough to stay in touch.

Sometimes they're really utilitarian, they can have a Q&A channel like a mini-Ask MeFi where industry experts ask and answer questions, but often they're a random water cooler and the value is much lower. I'm thinking of a podcasters team I'm on and there's a #technique channel where people share reviews of microphones and pop filters and room setups and filter settings for audio software and it's pretty useful stuff I check once a week.

So I'd say feel free to join the teams, see if they have an #intros or #introductions channel to share a short bio about yourself, and otherwise lurk and see what's useful for you in each team, and revisit the ones that are doing something for you.

(it's totally ok to not read every single message in any non-work slack team, just dip in when you have time and read what you like and let the rest just scroll by)
posted by mathowie at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Lurk, lurk, lurk. It's totally fine. Expect some folks won't know much about you when you do decide to speak and weigh whether that would push your behavior in a more participatory direction so future interactions are on more even footing.
posted by radiosilents at 1:17 PM on May 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My advice for using slack in a group where you're not sure of the dynamic is this:

Thread. Thread thread thread thread thread. Reply in threads all over the shop. If you worry people will miss something important, click "also send to the channel" but in general if you're nervous about the etiquette, keep replying in threads.

If you have a new topic to start, start a new channel or post in a relevant one. But try to keep replies to threads as a default.

And then if people say "why do you always post in threads?" you can just go "Oh I figured it was the best way. I can post in-channel if that makes it easier."
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. This was so useful!
posted by carter at 3:22 AM on May 23, 2019

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